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meet sophia

Years Awarded:

My diagnosis does not define who I am, but it has changed my outlook on life and turned me into the person I am today.

Although I’m no longer there, the sounds of the hospital echo in my head, the droning machinery and voices of doctors haunt my sleep. Intermittent chimes of heart monitors and cries of children carry far down the sterile hallways that plagued my youth. I sometimes wish I could turn back the clock and erase those months spent in and out of hospitals, forgetting the irreversible trauma I experienced. As a kind of comfort, they paint pediatric hospitals with bright colors and cartoonish animals, hiding the pain that stains the air. I still remember sitting in those waiting rooms for years after, with giraffes scuba diving on the wall and seeing the people I was in the hospital with. They all may have been older than me, but we stuck together. My family sometimes brings them up, their successes in life, and how far they’ve come since those years. But we also remember the ones we lost along the way. Those times always end in tears.

Sometimes, late at night, when my brain is unoccupied, the thoughts and memories creep back in, not allowing for rest to overtake my already exhausted body. I can picture the layout of the hospital room, IV poles, a television on the wall, and heart monitors. A solitary window in the comer looked out to a roof with various recreation balls from the playground down below, a place I never went. The constant babble of my roommates’ TV on the opposite side of the curtain reminds me that I’m not alone. Screams and cries occupy my dreams, and visions of procedures blind my vision. Whenever these nights come, I remember it wasn’t all bad. Memories of dunk tanks, cotton candy, and a man dressed as a pirate throwing french fries from a boat Late nights surrounded by those who understand the pain I’ve experienced and to whom I can approach at any time for advice or if I need a shoulder to cry on. These are the people that have made all of my hardships worth it.

Being diagnosed with cancer at seven brought many challenges, both in the moment and for years after, but it also taught me lessons I continue to carry with me as I move through this world. I had to learn to advocate for myself and communicate with doctors and nurses about my concerns and questions. I have learned how to adapt to and accept change. To push through the worst of times and emerge on the other side with scars, but surviving. My past cancer diagnosis has not made me weak; although it kicked me around for six months and left me with battle wounds, it has opened my eyes and taught me compassion and selflessness. It has taught me to be resilient and speak up for myself. My diagnosis does not define who I am, but it has changed my outlook on life and turned me into the person I am today.